It's while he's reading Life magazine, late one night, that this all really [begins]<1|.(click:?1)[
At first glance, the page he turns to seems to hold nothing relevant to him. 350 miles away in New York, a trial is going on. Seven boys are on trial for murder.
Then [something]<2| in the courtroom drawing grips him:(click:?2)[ the look of bewilderment, hatred, despair and frustrated anger in the eyes of one of the boys. Mere boys.
Involuntary tears [[begin to fall|intro2]].]]Shame at his easily-manipulated emotions bubbles up with his own tears. But reading the caption, he finds that the boys are all teenagers, members of a gang called [the Dragons]<1|.(click:?1)[
Beneath the picture is the story of how the seven of them had gone into Highbridge Park in New York and brtually attacked and killed a fifteen-year-old polio victim named Michael Farmer. The story is disgusting... yet compelling. A wave of [pity]<2| rises within him.(click:?2)[
Pity for murdered boy... And just as strong, pity for his murderers. That's when a [[thought|intro3]] springs into his head.]]"Go to New York City and help those boys."
[[He laughs."Me? Go to New York? And barge into a situation I know nothing about?"|intro4]]
[[He scowls. "Why should I care?"|intro5]]
[[He stays silent.|intro6]]"Yes, you. Go to New York City and help those boys."
[[He recognises the voice.|intro8]]
[[He can't place the voice.|intro7]]The response is immediate, filling his mind with a resonant, repeating thought that does not back down.
"Because I care. Because I care. Because I care. Care because I care. I care."
[[He recognises the voice.|intro8]]
[[He can't place the voice.|intro7]]He waits. He knows this voice. It's the same resonant, ringing voice that brings thoughts from outside of himself - thoughts he doesn't recognise - thoughts that don't belong to him. The wisest, riskiest thoughts. The words that have always had the most powerful effects on his life.
Perhaps the voice is in his imagination... Perhaps it connects to his brain where the ears do. It may not have a a physical sound, but he knows from its clarity and suddenness that it isn't his voice. Yet he can't fear such a voice.
[["My Lord."|intro8]]As he sits in the quiet of the midnight study, he feels a warmth begin to pervade him. The tell-tale sensation of the comforting presence of God. God, who is always present, has allowed him again to feel his presence. Once more, the man weeps, but now with an overwhelming gratitude and release.
[["I will go, Lord."|begin]]He shakes his head and speaks aloud. "Who are you? Who are you, speaking into my mind?"
Immediately his head is full with the clear and sudden thought - an imagined voice that has arrived faster than his own power to imagine - and quite beyond his own habits of thought. It suffuses his mind and echoes back and forth like an echo in a cave... "I am that I am. I am the God of your fathers. I am myself. I am being. I am life. I am compassion. I am myself. I am... You know who I am, David. You know who I am..."
He finds that he has fallen to his knees, and tears are now streaming down his face as he weeps, overcome with the knowledge of the voice of God. That God should speak to him now, here, tonight!
[["Yes, Lord. You are the Lord. My Lord."|begin]]They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed,
shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
bringing his sheaves with him.
Psalm 126 verses 5-6.
[[...|C1p1Route46]]Early one morning, the Reverend David Wilkerson of Philipsburg, Pennsylvania gets into his old car with a friend and sets off for New York.
[What will he do when he gets there?]<1|(click:?1)[
He doesn't know. But he knows that his conscience won't let him get far unless he obeys his Lord.
He swaps places with Miles, his Youth Pastor, a few miles before George Washington Bridge.
["Pull over when you see a gas station, Miles."]<2|(click:?2)[
"Alright, David." Miles grins nervously. "There's one ahead."
[["I want to ring the District Attorney named in the article."|C1p2DAphoneconvo]]
[["I need to stretch my legs and talk to the Lord."|C1p3prayerwalk]]]]The telephone conversation goes something like [this]<1|:(click:?1)[
["Can I please speak to the Attorney overseeing the Michael Farmer case?"]<2|(click:?2)[
"Who is this?"
["This is the Reverend David Wilkerson of Philipsburg PA."]<3|(click:?3)[
"What is your relation to the case?"
["I want to speak to those boys, the accused gang members."]<4|(click:?4)[
"On what authority?"
["Well, really for their well-being."]<5|(click:?5)[
"I'm sorry, sir, but you won't be able to speak to anybody concerning the case unless you have a genuine interest."
["But I do have an interest. That's exactly what I mean. What would you say if I told you I had been told to come and speak to them?"]<6|(click:?6)[
"Told? By who?"
"The District Attorney will not put up with any interference in this case. Good day to you, sir."
The line goes dead. David Wilkerson steps out of the phone booth and stands beside a pyramid of old oil cans, trying to recapture his feeling of mission. All that guidance in the security of his mountain parish study no longer seems so [convincing]<8|.(click:?8)[
[["Hey David, we're blocking the exit! Get over here!"|C1p4highway]]]]]]]]]]Leaving Miles to organise a full tank of gasoline, David steps out into the dusk and tries to grasp at a moment of peace and divine consolation. What is he to do? Where is he to go? Is this mission anything more than vanity and self-delusion on his part? He paces and prays wordlessly, simply [devoting]<1| his churning emotions to God.(click:?1)[
The beginning of Psalm 119 springs into his mind. "Blessed is the man whose ways are blameless, who walks according to the law of the Lord." He begins to pray aloud.
"Well, Lord, I certainly hope my way is blameless in this. I'm only [trying]<2| to follow you, to be obedien, after all."(click:?2)[
He walks some more. "I mean, stop me anytime, Lord. Or confirm you word. I'll [wait]<3| for you to give me some sort of sign."(click:?3)[
He waits a little while. Not a long time, but he does feel genuinely, desperately, at God's mercy. Surely God will speak.
[The car horn sounds.]<4|(click:?4)[
[["Hey David, we're blocking the exit! Get over here!"|C1p4highway]]]]]]No sooner are David and Miles back on the highway than it locks up with trucks, cars, buses and every conceivable mode of transport. The glare of tail-lights fill the small saloon and there is absolutely no chance of turning around.
The bridge, the night-time skyline, the traffic and the intensity of the atmosphere begin to overwhelm David. He realises just how countrified he is.
When they reach the other side of the bridge, they are confronted by a dozen green signs pointing to highways whose names mean nothing to wither David or Miles.
["Where do we go now?" asks David.]<1|(click:?1)[
"No idea," replies Miles. "Just follow the car in front, I guess, until we know where we are."
So they [follow]<2| the car in front.(click:?2)[
It leads them to Upper Manhattan, and when they are eventually parked David and Miles find themselves outside the hotel they had figured to stay in. Across the road five teenagers stand around an open fire on a vacant lot. David makes up his mind.
[["I'm going to try the District Attorney's office again."|C1p5DAoffice]]
[["I'm going to speak to those teenagers."|C1p5teenagefire]]]]This time the phone call is even shorter.
"Look," David is told, "The only person who can give you permission to speak to those boys is Judge Davidson himself."
["So how do I get to speak to him?"]<1|(click:?1)[
"He'll be at the trial tomorrow morning. One hundred Court Street. Now goodbye, Reverend. Please don't call again."
David has a [[sleepless night|C1p7Court]].]The five teenagers look at David suspiciously as he approaches. Dressed in rough clothes and plainly unwashed, they look at him like they would at an alien from another planet.
"What you want, man?"
["Do you know anything about the Michael Farmer trial?"]<1|(click:?1)[
"You crazy? Don't know nothing 'bout that." One boy shifts a piece of smouldering wood in his hand, as if about to toss it.
["I want to help those boys,"]<2|(click:?2)[
"Them boys? Hoo!" One of the teens leans back and laughs. "Them boys is mean enough to cut you right up, man. You stay in your part of town!"
["I do mean it. Do any of you know the boys in the trial?"]<3|(click:?3)[
"Hey, get lost! And I mean that!" The tallest of the boys comes to his decision and tosses the shouldering plank towards David. It lands in the road, scattering sparks, and the teenagers hoot and holler and laugh.
David retreats to the hotel, where he spends a sleepless night [[praying and worrying|C1p7Court]].]]]
Next morning, Miles and David skip breakfast and head out to the courthouse. Outside stands a man full of his opinions - full to overflowing.
"Chair's too good for them punks," he says noisily. "Ought to make an example of them."
David [passes on by]<1|.(click:?1)[
It's later, when he's managed to get inside the courtroom, that things move up a gear. In fact, he and Miles only just make it. In a room crammed with seven defendants and more than twenty defence lawyers, the two visitors [take the last two public seats]<2|.(click:?2)[
When the boys are led in, David doesn't know how to hold in his pain and his pity. He had expected... murderers. But instead he sees seven scared, stooping boys, handcuffed together, slaves to their poverty, their crime and their situation.
A girl [is led to the witness stand]<3|.(click:?3)[
"That little whore is the gang's doll," David is informed by his neighbour. "You know, she carries the weapons and so on." David feels dizzy.
Hours [pass]<4|,(click:?4)[ in which slow legal wrangling establishes the girl wiped blood from a knife shown to the courtroom. And then suddenly, before David knows what is happening, the process is [adjourned]<5|.(click:?5)[
Something prompts him - that now is the time. He obeys without hesitating or thinking, and steps out of his seat towards the Judge.
David Wilkerson presses forward to gain the Judge's attention and ask for the opportunity to speak to the boys. But before he can get more than a few steps, the courtroom is in uproar and he is [swept off his feet]<7| by several strong guards.(click:?7)[
The guards deposit him outside. "Alright," growls one. "Where's the gun?"
["I haven't got any gun!"]<8|(click:?8)[
"Oh no? Didn't you know that the Judge's life has been threatened? By the Dragon gang - the same people those punks run with? Just what sort of stunt are you trying to pull?"
David Wilkerson finds himself at the centre of a scrum of reporters and guards, all chance of speaking to the boys on trial [[vanishing fast|C1p8reporters]].]]]]]]]]] "Who are you? What do you want?"
David explains himself. ["I'm not an assassin! I'm a man of God!"]<1|(click:?1)[
"Man of God, eh?" calls one reporter. "You carrying a Bible then?"
["Yes I am!"]<2|(click:?2)[
"You ashamed of it?"
["No I am not!"]<3|(click:?3)[
"Then hold it up, Reverend!"
David [[holds it up|C1p9photo]].]]]And that's when the camera bulbs flash and, semi-dazed and almost entirely hopeless, David Wilkerson throws in his lot with God.
A guard [reappears]<1|. (click:?1)[
"The judge doesn't want to press charges," he says gruffly. "You've got away lightly, preacher. But you [can't come back here]<2|."(click:?2)[
David backs away. He seems to have [[failed|C2p1car-ride]] entirely.]]
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